US media is reporting that Russia is reframing its justification for the invasion of Ukraine by moving away from “denazification” to the “complete de-Satanization” of Ukraine. According to the Washing Post report, the Russians are trying to appeal to the US right wing and elements of the Republican Party opposing US aid to Ukraine:
November 17, 2022 Nine months ago, Russia claimed its invasion of Ukraine was necessary to drive out the Ukrainian neo-Nazis allegedly in control of Kyiv. Now the Kremlin has switched tactics. Russian officials in late October reframed the goal of the war as a mission to bring about a “complete de-Satanization” of Ukraine. Alexei Pavlov, assistant to Nikolai Patrushev — a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and secretary of the Russian Security Council — also accused U. S. leaders of backing the spread of satanic churches in Ukraine. The shift in Kremlin rhetoric comes amid Russian military setbacks in key Ukrainian territories. However, the reframed goal also coincided with the closing weeks of the U. S. midterm elections, as members of the Republican Party doubled down on antiwar rhetoric. With the MAGA wing of the party threatening to reverse President Biden’s military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine, those who supported these candidates were also ramping up the memes and messaging that equate Biden with the devil himself. Victories by pro-Trump Republicans in the midterms could have obstructed the Biden administration’s support for Ukraine. In this light, the call by Kremlin propagandists to rid Ukraine of the devil also appeared to target U. S. voters on the far right, with the goal of boosting their distrust in the U. S. political establishment — as well as boost U. S. sympathy for Russia’s war. Russians are not the only audience As Russian troops invaded, Russia’s state media was instrumental in spreading claims that Ukraine needed to be “de-Nazified.” The recent shift toward de-Satanization might help galvanize religious extremists within the Russian military, who have voiced their disappointment in Russia’s progress to date. But state-sponsored propaganda isn’t targeted exclusively toward domestic supporters. Research finds that autocrats also deploy propaganda to present a positive image of themselves abroad and to cultivate specific groups or individuals that are key to helping them promote their narratives.
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The Global Influence Operations Report (GIOR) reported last week on an article from independent Russian media analyzing the impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on the country’s attempts to position itself as the leader of the Global National Conservative Alliance (GNCA). According to that article,
Over the past decade, the Russian government has taken pains to present itself as a bastion of Christianity and traditional values. The Kremlin has used this image of religiosity and its close relationship with the Russian Orthodox Church as a mechanism to promote its interests domestically, as well as cultivate ties with similarly fundamentalist-minded supporters abroad.
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The Global National Conservative (GNCA) alliance is described in a GIOR report as follows:
Russian President PUTIN has expressed an interest in Russia becoming the ideological center of a new global conservative alliance, and European far-right leaders have taken pro-Russian positions based on a similar ideology. Hungary is at the center of a developing alliance between European far-right nationalists and American conservatives that Russia could potentially exploit for use in information warfare. This alliance operates under the rubric of “National Conservatism,” centered on national sovereignty, cultural identity, and opposition to global institutions and representing a potentially radical change for the US conservative movement away from long-held Reagan-era philosophies.
Read the full report here.
GIOR reported in November on the Christian nationalist wing of the Republican Party and its role in supporting Russian President Vladimir Putin while opposing military aid to Ukraine. The GIOR also reported in November that the director of the new Brussels branch of the Mathias Corvinus Collegium (MCC), a private Hungarian residential college funded by a massive donation of public funds, that hostility towards Hungary was in part motivated by the country’s defense of Christianity from European ‘culture warriors.”